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Damascene Process and

Chemical Mechanical Planarization

Muhammad Khan
Min Sung Kim

Traditionally, IC interconnects formed from Aluminum
Interconnects produced by subtractive etching of blanket

Aluminum, defined by the photoresist pattern

Over the past two decades, IC scaling and performance needs
necessitated the change in metal from Aluminum to Copper

Transition from Aluminum to Copper

The primary motivation behind the transition is increased

demand in:

Copper has lower resistivity than Aluminum
Lower resistivity leads to higher performance


Lower resistivity leads to lower Joule Heating

Allowing higher current densities and therefore smaller sizes

III. Reliability
Copper has lower activation energy than Aluminum
Copper is more resistive to Electromigration failures than Aluminum
Copper has higher thermal conductivity, providing efficient heat
conduction paths

Challenges with Copper


Difficult to pattern using conventional etching techniques

Copper does not produce a volatile by-product during

For example, Chlorine gas (used to etch metals in plasma
etchers) forms chloride that will not readily evaporate

Junction spiking/Copper Poisoning

Quickly diffuses into oxides and silicon
Spikes could be long enough to penetrate through junction

III. Poor oxidation/corrosion resistance

Quickly oxidizes in air and does not protect the underlying

copper from further oxidation

In 1990s, IBM introduces Damascene Process
A means for forming copper IC interconnects
Damascene Process a unique additive processing technique

Reminiscent of the metal inlay techniques used in the Middle

East since the middle ages.

The name originates in Damascus, the capital of modern

Damascene Process
Addresses the challenges copper presents by:
Eliminating the need to etch copper
Uses Chemical Mechanical Planarization (CMP) instead of etching
Using special barrier layers to stop copper diffusion
Barrier layers prevent the intermixing of materials above and below the
Typical barrier materials are Ta,TaN, TiN, and TiW

Fig. 1: Barrier Layer [1]

Damascene Process Steps

Damascene is an additive process
Firstly, the dielectric is deposited
Secondly, the dielectric is etched according to the defined

photoresist pattern, and then barrier layer is deposited

Thirdly, copper is deposited
Optimum way of copper deposition is electroplating
Copper electrodeposition is a two step process
First seed layer is deposited on the wafer using PVD
Next the copper is electroplated

Finally, the surface is planarized using CMP

Etch and

Barrier Layer


Seed Layer


Fig. 2: Single Damascene

Process Steps [1]

Conventional Metallization Process

versus Damascene Process
Depositing metal and
defining PR pattern
Metal is etched
according to PR pattern

Depositing dielectric
and defining PR pattern
Trenches for vias and
lines are etched
Metal fills the trenches

Dielectric is deposited

Excess dielectric is

Excess metal is
removed by CMP
Dielectric is

Fig. 3 : Comparison of conventional metallization process with Damascene Process [2]

Dual Damascene Process

Very similar to single damascene process, key difference is

Creates vias and lines by etching holes and trenches in the
dielectric, and then depositing copper in both features
One photo/etch step to make holes (vias) in the dielectric so
as to make connection with underlying metal
Second photo/etch step to make trenches for the metal line
The two photo/etch steps can be performed in two orders:


Trench First then Via

Via First then Trench

Fig. 4: Trench First

then Trench [4]

Fig. 5: Via First

then Trench [4]

Challenges with Dual Damascene

Via first then Trench approach
Residual photoresist remains in the bottom of the via during the

trench etch
Due to highly porous nature of low-K dielectrics, the residual photoresist

is absorbed, thereby altering the K value of dielectric

Trench first then Via approach

Photoresist also pools in the open trench structure prior to via

Most low-K dielectric films are hydrophilic
It is critical that surface hard mask (Photoresist) shield the

dielectric from moisture as well as protect dielectric from

aggressive cleans

Chemical Mechanical Polishing/Planarization

- CMP is a process of
smoothing surfaces with the
combination of chemical
and mechanical forces.

Figure 6. Basic design of CMP [5].

Typical Process Conditions

Pressure: 2 to 7 psi

Temperature: 10 C to 70 C

Platen/Carrier rpm: 20 to 80

Slurry flow rate: 100 to 200


Typical removal rates:

Oxide CMP ~2800/min

Metal CMP ~3500/min

How CMP works

Figure 7. Mechanical Aspects of Material Removal [6].

: Material Removal Rate
K : Preston Coefficient

[Prestons Equation, 1927]

P = Pressure
V = Velocity

Advantages of CMP
Good selectivity (No lapping)
Reduce resist thickness variation
Better resolution of photolithographic process by reducing depth

of focus
Multi-level structures
Improved step coverage of subsequent layer deposition

Figure 8. Oxide Planarization [5].

Advantages of CMP cont.


Figure 9. Better selectivity of CMP [6].


Advantages of CMP cont.

Lithography: Resolution
Depth of Focus

Si substrate


Si substrate

Figure 10. Effect of CMP on photolithography resolution [6].

Types of Planarization

Figure 11. Various forms of planarization [7].

Limitations of CMP
Dishing and erosion
Stress cracking

Corrosive attacks from slurry chemicals

Limitations of CMP cont.

Dishing and erosion are forms

of local planarization where

some areas of wafer polish faster
than the other.

Figure 12. Illustration of copper dishing and

oxide erosion [7].

Multi-million $ machine (Nikon)

Dry in Dry out
4 polishing tables
Max. potential throughput of ~2,000 wafers/day

Figure 13. Nikon CMP machine [6].

Figure 14. E550 Alpsitec Company machine [5].


[1] Richard et al., Demystifying Chipmaking, Elsevier, 2005.
[2] Robert Doering and Yoshio Nishi, Eds., Handbook of
Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology, 2nd ed., CRC Press,
[3] Michael Quirk and Julian Serda, Semiconductor Manufacturing
Technology, 1st ed., Prentice Hall, 2000.
[4] San Jose University Engineering Department, Copper
Deposition, [Online], Available:
ascene_S.pdf [Accessed: 17 Oct. 2011]

[5] Alpsitec SARL. Alpsitec is represented by Crystec Technology
Trading GmbH,
[6] Joshua Chien, University of California Berkeley, CA,
Chemical Mechanical Planarization. [Microsoft PowerPoint].
Berkeley, CA: Rohm & Haas.
[7] Jeffrey Rockwell and Yuzhuo Li, Chemical Mechanical
Polishing, 2000,